The American Soybean Association (ASA) appreciated President Barack Obama’s remarks on several of ASA’s top legislative priorities during his 2011 State of the Union address.

President Obama encouraged job creation by doubling exports, passing the pending Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), expanding the use of renewable energy, and improving America’s infrastructure.

“The American Soybean Association noted President Obama’s commitment to supporting the U.S. economy and job creation through increasing exports, expanding the use of renewable energy and increasing funding for infrastructure improvements,” said ASA President Alan Kemper, a soybean farmer from Lafayette, Ind. “These issues are top priorities for ASA, and we will continue to work with both parties in Congress as well as the Administration to achieve them.”

President Obama reaffirmed his National Export Initiative goal of doubling exports in the next five years, saying, “Last month, we finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs… and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible.”

ASA believes that efforts to achieve the goal of creating more U.S. jobs and the doubling of exports will require Congressional approval of the pending FTAs with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, and renewal of Presidential Trade Promotion Authority to enable the negotiation of new FTAs with key importing countries.

“U.S. soybeans and soy product exports had a total value of more than $21 billion for the 2009-10 marketing year, making the U.S. soybean industry the largest positive commodity contributor to the national trade balance,” Kemper said. “Just last week a visiting delegation of companies from China signed contracts to purchase $6.68 billion worth of U.S. soybeans in 2011.”

Clean energy technology

President Obama also talked about investing in and increasing research on clean energy technology and biofuels, saying, “With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels.”

ASA registered a significant victory on behalf of U.S. soybean farmers with last month’s passage of the retroactive biodiesel tax incentive extension through the end of 2011. The one-dollar-per-gallon tax credit is structured in a manner that makes biodiesel more competitive with petroleum diesel fuel in the market place.

“The biodiesel tax credit has a direct impact on jobs and is critical to supporting the biodiesel industry, a major market for U.S. soybean oil and a key factor in supporting domestic soybean prices in recent years,” Kemper said. “Biodiesel reduces our dependence on imported petroleum, it’s good for the environment, and it’s the only commercially available advanced biofuel in the market today.”

President Obama also spoke about improving infrastructure, saying, “We’ll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges,” and noting that engineers gave U.S. infrastructure a low grade.

“ASA supports increased funding for the nation’s transportation infrastructure for road, rail and waterway improvements that will benefit U.S. soybean farmers by helping them move their product across the U.S. and to ports that will ship soybeans and soybean products to our trading partners around the world,” Kemper said. “Over 75 percent of U.S. soybean exports move to world ports via the upper Mississippi and Illinois River systems, but the locks, dams and channels on these river systems are crumbling and in desperate need of modernization.”

ASA represents all U.S. soybean farmers on domestic and international issues of importance to the soybean industry. ASA’s advocacy efforts are made possible through the voluntary membership in ASA by over 22,500 farmers in 31 states where soybeans are grown.